EMI Congress: Fostering civil society in the candidate and potential candidate countries
ALDA represented at the European Movement Congress in BUDVA, Montenegro
FOSTERING CIVIL SOCIETY IN THE CANDIDATE AND POTENTIAL CANDIDATE COUNTRIES
The EMI congress was organised by the International European Movement and the European Movement in Montenegro, in partnership with the European Commission, the Government of Montenegro and the Municipality of Budva. The aim of the conference, bringing together prominent public and civil society's figures from Montenegro, the region and the EU, is to promote dialogue between civil society and public institutions in the EU candidate and potential candidate countries, and to contribute to enhanced regional co-operation of the civil society.
After the opening speeches by Mr. Diogo Pinto, Secreatry General of EMI and Mr. Momcilo Radulovic, Secretary General of European Movement Montenegro, the congress participants were addressed by the Prime Minister of Montenegro, Mr. Milo Djukanovic who underlined that Montenegro is the first country to begin the EU accession talks with the opening of the Chapter 23 and 24, but also the first one to include civil society's representatives in its negotiating team. He particularly referred to the sector’s role within the project titled “National Convention on European integration of Montenegro”, which is being implemented in partnership with the Government of Slovakia. Mr. Djukanovic reiterated that International European Movement have been making an invaluable contribution to the building of a united Europe since its establishment in 1948.
The key note speakers of the first panel “EU accession process as a framework for national reform and strengthening co-operation of governments and CSOs were Igor Luksic, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and EU integration of Montenegro, Mr. Branko Ruzic, Minister of EU integration of Serbia, Ms. Tanja Miscevic, the Chief Negotiator for the accession of the Republic of Serbia to the EU, Prof. Franz – Lothar Altman, Senior Research Fellow, Alexander Onassis Foundation, Athens, Ms. Gledis Gjipali, Executive Director of EM Albania.
Economic crisis and the European integration project constituting a wider context for fostering civil society in candidate and potential candidate countries were the main topics of the Congress in Budva gathering around one hundred participants representing European movement member organizations from the Western Balkan countries and Turkey as well as from EU MS. During interactive thematic sessions both the panelists and participants exchanged ideas on modalities for creating grounds for a stronger union between civil society and the EU institutions so as to persuade the national governments in the region to undertake or speed up the reforms.
All the thematic panels attracted much attention and provoked a vivid debate and interaction. Particularly interesting was the one in which the panelists were the MPs responsible for EU integration of the National Parliaments and the one dedicated to the EU enlargement and economic crisis.
Many agreed that the further enlargement will be more cumbersome, not only because the new approach introduced as regards the negotiations for chapters 23 and 24 so as to allow maximum time needed to establish the necessary legislation, institutions and solid track of implementation before the negotiation is closed, but above all, because of the longest economic crisis in the last decade. Countries of the Western Balkans, regardless to their present status will need to create their own portfolio of EU integration and develop their own specific model of accession. Learning from those who have recently joined the full membership has been developed as good practice exchange approach and in many ways engaged all the relevant stakeholders – government officials, public administrators, MPs, and also the civil society organizations. However, as emphasized by Mr. Vlastimir Matejic, President of EM Serbia, it is the regional co-operation that requires continuity, mechanisms and people devoted to a common cause – social and economic reforms that would help make visible changes to the benefit of an overall development of the Western Balkans.
Considering the present economic crisis, it would be hard to expect that EU enlargement 2014-2020 would be similar to the previous Programming Period and as indicated by ALDA representative Stanka Parac Damjanovic, Regional Programme Coordinator, the main challenge of CSOs (and not only CSOs) in the Western Balkans will be how to do better with less resources. Examples of effective networking of LDAs, agreement based co-operation and local memorandums with the local governments were specifically mentioned. Further to this, the need for establishing and further strengthening of NGO Resource and training centres could become a useful tool for both issue based networking and as a source of sustainability.
Stanka Parac Damjanovic, Regional Programme Coordinator